Reading comic books is 87% hobby, 10% voluntary homework, and 3% fiscal irresponsibility. Comics are a hobby because they’re rad, a nexus of written prose and illustrated scenes you don’t find in novels or films. Comics are homework simply because of the sheer volume of material coming out each month. August 2017 saw 331 comics hit the shelves--and that doesn’t count the number of graphic novels and collected volumes being published to entice readers to visit previously released books. Hence the slight sense of fiscal irresponsibility. Comic books are addictive and inexpensive. It’s easy to choose between a $3.99 book that gloriously depicts a brawl between Deadpool and the Punisher and a box of pseudo-healthy cereal for twice that or whatever the hell else adults are supposed to buy.
Awash in this never-ending cascade of prose and artwork, deciding which books to pick up and which to pass over is a daunting activity even for avid readers like me who would rather drown in comic books than see the light of day. I can imagine that diving in as a newbie with no guide would be about as stressful as studying for a Russian lit final written in Dothraki. That’s where I come in to guide you--like a foreign taxi driver who speaks no English but has a warm smile and unwavering confidence in making it through every yellow light possible.
Thus I humbly present the inaugural edition of Connor’s Comics Corner because (a) I love alliteration and (b) I want to help people make the right comic book purchases. At the end of each month I will take a look back at my top books from the previous month based on their impact to continuity, wow-factor, art style, and strength of story. Like any sane human on the planet, I don’t read every single book that comes out, so I will only be selecting issues from my monthly subscriptions (which still comes out to anywhere from 23 to 35 comics a month).
Must buys from September:
5. Deadpool #35 (Secret Empire Tie In)
Written by Gerry Duggan
Pencils by Mike Hawthorne
Inks by Terry Pallot
Colors by Ruth Redmond
Letters by VC’s Joe Sabino
Kicking off my Comics Corner is an exception to the “previous month” rule with a book that actually came out August 30. But close enough. Comic fans know Deadpool’s rocky publishing history, but movie fans only know the massively successful movie franchise. Luckily, Deadpool’s comic book adventures have been excellent for a long time now, from scribe Daniel Way to Brian Poshen to current writer Gerry Duggan. While the definitive issue of his run is still #21, the final issue of Duggan’s Secret Empire tie-in was a great addition to the now two-year arc of the Crimson Crusader.
Deadpool is a joke amongst his spandex-suit clad peers, until they realize what an asset he is. Then they use him fully and give him zero credit, which is exactly what this issue explores. The marketing for this issue joked that Wade Wilson was the hero of the Secret Empire arc, the one who takes down Hydra Captain America (aka Stevil, the greatest nickname ever), but that is essentially what this issue actually shows. Without Deadpool, the Defenders would’ve never made it out of New York and the final battle against Hydra would’ve been lost.
This issue lends itself well to the Marvel Legacy rebrand as ole Pool begins to question his whole hero shtick because he continually tries to do the right thing and continually gets undermined. The seeds are planted for Wade to return to his despicable, killing for money/for free ways. After all, why be a hero if nobody even acknowledges your heroics? (For the answer see any hero with a secret identity. Any of them.)
4. The Wild Storm #7
Written by Warren Ellis
Pencils and Inks by Jon Davis-Hunt
Colors by Steve Buccellato
Letters by Simon Bowland
The Wild Storm is an attempt to bring characters from comic book legend Jim Lee’s Wild Storm imprint into DC continuity and—HOLY BALLS-- it has been nonstop action and excellence since the first issue. It has an independent comic feel in that it does not shy away from gruesome, realistic battles and is helmed by a living legend in Warren Ellis. John Davis-Hunt’s incredibly detailed art continues to allow the story to play out with a ferocity not seen in comics today, particularly in this issue. Comic book fight scenes can easily come off as chaotically hard to follow, but his frame by frame progression of a close quartered gunfight in a confined space station leaves the reader drooling longer than a 12-year-old who just found his first playboy (RIP Hef).
Never make fun of someone in a track suit.
Opening with an incredible gunfight, this issue continues to deepen the web of corporate espionage at the center of the story, with more players stepping onto the game board across the various agencies intertwined within the extraterrestrial mystery. I’ve never read anything from the original Wild Storm imprint, so stepping into these characters fresh makes the series all the better.
Regardless, there still isn’t a clear-cut good guy in this series. Jacob Marlowe may be the leader of the Wild C.A.T.s (C.A.T.s are “covert action teams” usually operating under a designated corporation, so a “wild C.A.T.” is one that operates independently) who are the closest thing to good guys so far, but this issue hints even more at his enigmatic past that has the reader feeling like he may have darker, more world-dominating motives.
There’s a lot of different operations and corporations to track in this series, so if you’re going to give it a read (which I HIGHLY recommend) it is best to read the books in three-issue bursts rather than reading each issue as it comes out. Or take detailed notes and create a conspiracy map in your bedroom that takes up the space you had previously designated for the framed Star Wars posters you had given yourself for Christmas. Up to you.
Me explaining The WIld Storm to people
3. Peter Parker: Spectacular Spider-Man #4
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Pencils and Inks by Adam Kubert
Colors by Jordie Bellaire
Letters by VC’s Travis Lanham
Marvel Comics has been making a marvelous (intended) effort to bring their characters closer to their roots in order to appease older readers. Now me, I am totally fine with where the majority of Marvel characters have been trending, with a glaring exception of Spider-Man-- who has turned into nothing more than a younger Tony Stark.
When Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man got relaunched I was giddy--the character would be returning to his neighborhood vigilante past, balancing high-budget battles against Wilson Fisk with dating, getting groceries, and not blowing off his friends all the time. Spider-Man and I have lots in common actually, minus dating and fighting supervillains, unless student loans count as a supervillain.
Many non-comic fans may not realize that Spider-Man is actually the funniest character in the Marvel Universe, and Chip Zdarsky nails the unrelenting banter and insecurities that usually ooze out of Peter Parker. While the first three issues are also hilarious, this issue reaches a peak that had me laughing out loud almost every page. Seeing Spider-Man do stand-up comedy was a dream-that-I-didn’t-know-I-had come true.
Still funnier than anything Adam Sandler has produced since pre-Y2K
The story even takes a critical lens to biased online journalism, reinventing J. Jonah Jameson as a fanatical blogger who is still hell-bent on smearing Spider-Man’s name. Ironically, old man Jameson is right in thinking that he’ll find more success as an internet blogger spewing biased opinions against Spider-Man toward the masses looking for a place to hate Spider-Man. I am interested to see if Zdarsky continues to examine sensationalist journalism in the modern media environment in coming issues, and if he can continue to do it in a way that is genuinely hilarious.
I’d also be remiss not to mention how perfect Adam Kubert’s art is for this style of Spider-Man comic. This comic skews heavily from the gritty realism that has infiltrated Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man, and Kubert’s pencils echo that theme in a way that perfectly dances the line between comical and over-the-top ridiculous.
2. Star Wars: Darth Vader #5
Written by Charles Soule
Pencils by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inks by Cam Smith
Colors by David Curiel
Letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna
I am honestly surprised that only one Star Wars issue made this list. If you’re a Star Wars fan, then this specific issue of the second volume of Darth Vader is a must read that examines the recently turned Sith Lord in a way that we have never seen before on screen. This new Darth Vader series follows the fallen Jedi’s first steps after his execution of the Emperor’s heinous orders, with the first arc tackling the story of how young Skywalker acquires his new lightsaber (they even explain why all Siths have red sabers and it’s pretty damn metal).
In issue #4 we follow Darth Vader immediately after he dispatched one of the last Jedi using nothing but a training baton and the force. He even uses the force again to break a dam that kept an entire city from flooding, effectively murdering an untold number of innocents. This is one of the most vicious acts Star Wars fans have ever seen from Darth Vader, causing him to seem completely devoid of any humanity.
However, Charles Soule flips the script on the readers showing that Vader is not devoid of remorse and a surprisingly conflicted young version of the character. We see Darth attempt to build his new saber, only to envision a different path for himself, one where he returns to the Emperor to strike him down before tracking down a mentally broken Obi-Wan to beg for forgiveness.
Just think, if this is actually how things had played out we would've never been gifted the amazing Darth Vader rampage in Rogue One. That alone would be a travesty.
Obviously, Star Wars fans know this is not how events play out, and Darth eventually snaps out of his lapse into the light to truly complete his transition into darkness. Using his most painful memories, that of the death of his pregnant wife and the destruction of his sacred order at his own hands, Darth Vader eradicates any sense of hope left in him as he wholeheartedly succumbs to anger, despair, and darkness. Soule clearly understands the Star Wars mythos and what drives the Sith and this issue paints a path to the dark side even more elaborately than the prequel films did.
1. Dark Knights Metal #2
Written by Scott Snyder
Pencils by Greg Capullo
Inks by Jonathan Glapion
Colors by FCO Plascencia
Letters by Steve Wands
Many moviegoers are starting to grow tired of endless comic book movies, while comic book nerds are growing weary of summer events. Although DC releases universe-wide events more sparsely, titles from their rivals at Marvel have been met with divisive criticisms. Luckily DC placed their next event in the hands of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (who are the modern day Frank Miller and Klaus Johnson of Batman mythos) with Dark Nights Metal. While issue #1 served as more of a preamble (despite it following two genuine preamble issues), #2 kicks off with insanity: the Justice League chases down a Bat-ski riding Batman and a mobilized Bat-family through a dense jungle-swamp to stop him from pursuing a case that could potentially wreak havoc on both Batman’s and Bruce Wayne’s worlds.
Just as 90% of their encounters go, Bruce outsmarts the entire Justice League using classic smoke-and-mirror tactics. It’s when Superman finally tracks down the Bat that this issue truly breaks new ground, with Batman finally at the brink of the ultimate discovery to crack the mystery of an unknown dark metal that had eluded human discovery for so long. Unbeknownst to Batman, he is actually the conduit that allows a dark multiverse to pour into the world, unleashing sick, twisted, and downright unsettling versions of Batman-Justice League member hybrids on our DC heroes.
It’s not only great to see such a rad pay off so early in a summer event series, but this sequence also thrusts Batman into a state readers have never seen him in before—extraordinary fear and uncertainty. The man who always knows what is truly going on, always has a master plan, who plans 15 steps ahead of every single person involved in every situation, was scared shitless with no idea what to do. It was nothing short of disheartening to see a Batman so truly defeated.
As an added bonus, the dark Batmen ARE RAD AS HELL!!! With each getting their one one-shot comic in the coming months (Batman: the Red Death aka Bat-Flash and Batman: The Murder Machine aka Bat-Cyborg one-shots already out) I am incredibly excited to learn how each of these versions of Bruce Wayne came to be, especially the Batman Who Laughs, a terrifying amalgam of Bruce Wayne and the Joker complete with his own cadre of Robins.
The dark versions of Bruce Wayne are intriguingly creepy, each with their own established back story
Those weren't the only fantastic books to come out last month. Check out the list below for other books that fell just short of making what I am certain will soon become a coveted list. Be sure to check back next month for the second edition of Connor's Comics Corner. Or don't and lose me from your life. The choice is yours.
Star Wars: Poe Dameron #19 is a gut wrenching conclusion to a lengthy story arc relating to a perceived Black Squadron traitor.
Teen Titans #12, Nightwing #29, and Suicide Squad #26 are official Metal tie-ins telling the “Gotham Resistance” storylines with really badass sequences of Green Arrow, Damian Wayne, Nightwing, Harley Quinn, and Killer Croc fighting their way through a Gotham City turned into a Dante-esque hell.
Marvel Legacy #1 is the culmination of a long-awaited rebrand of the Marvel universe that may not deliver on scope or story, but definitely delivers moments that legions of fanboys clamored for with the return of massive previously dead characters.
Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual #1, a standalone issue detailing an undercover operation at the circus, exquisitely examines the brotherhood between Jason Todd and Dick Grayson that will tug at any Bat-fan’s heart strings (PS Love ya, Matt. You’ll always be the Dick to my Jason…. That came out weird.)
Astonishing X-Men #3 continues the X-Men’s fight through the Astral Plane as the Shadow King and Xavier play with their lives, focusing on Old Man Logan’s (aka Wolverine from another universe) unbreakable will, driven by the pain and loss he suffered from his mistakes.